Our Favorite Books of 2020!

Well 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year. Thank goodness it’s about to end. We’ve been pretty open with our struggles we had this year when it came to our reading lists. We didn’t read as much as we wanted and don’t have as many books to pick from. So this year we are going to do something different this year. Instead of picking our Top 5 or 10 books we are just going to list our favorite books we read this year. So here we go.

  1. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – by Cho Nam-Joo This was such a powerful book to me. Like the main character Kim Jiyoung. I was also born in 1982 and can identify with so many of her struggles. The fact that she is Korean and I am American just goes to show how alike we are all no matter where we are from. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
  2. Deathless Divide – by Justina Ireland The sequel of Dread Nation about a Zombie apocalypse after the US Civil War. In this one we see more the aftermath of what happened and the hardships they all have to endure. Jane is the best protagonist. She’s funny, strong, and damaged but she never gives up. She’s who we all would want if a zombies ever attack and considering how 2020 went, I’m surprised they didn’t. (Beth don’t jinx it)
  3. The King of Crows – by Libba Bray The final book in The Diviner’s series was ever the sweeping epic I wanted it to be. It brought all of them together and made them all work together to defeat the King of Crows. The sad thing about this series is how so many of the problems of the 1920’s are still too relevant today. Racism, poverty war and greed all played a part in the novels and the last couple of years. I’m truly going to miss all of these characters.
  4. Midnight Sun – by Stephenie Meyer Controversial choice I know because I wasn’t very kind to it or to Edward and Bella. It has not aged well and I’ll never read it again but It was kinda fun to reminisce back to a time when I loved these books and when I was excited to go see the movies in theaters. (Remember when we could do that?) No matter what I feel about the now, I’ll always be grateful to them and Stephenie Meyer because they introduced me to a whole new genre of books that I probably wouldn’t have sought after before. So yes, It wasn’t a good book but it brought back some good memories.
  5. There’s Something about Sweetie by Sandhya Menon Sweetie is an awesome main character. Her development is amazing. The romance is adorable. I totally forgot I had read that one.
  6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz This was such a beautiful novel about a friendship between two teenagers. I loved it so much. It broke my heart and lifted me up. It was just so great. Plus, Lin Manuel Miranda reads the audiobook.
  7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro This novel was so horrifying. The quiet romance that hid the dark realities that Ishiguro created in the novel made it such an amazing piece of speculative fiction. I was so disturbed by it.
  8. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness The world building here is neat and I’m interested in where the story is going. I didn’t read a whole lot this year, but this one did get me into the sequel. So, even though there are things that definitely annoy me, I am adding it to the list. 

Quick Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

You know how often the book is so much better than the movie? Well this was exception to the rule because I have to say I like the movie better. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the movie multiple times and am fans of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I don’t know but the book was kind of blah. A lot of descriptions with not a lot happening. No wonder they made so many changes to the movie. They both follow sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens who both have had some bad luck in love. Sally is widowed early on in the book just like in the movie. She is also focused on being normal even though everyone else in her family are okay with being themselves. Gillian is still the wild spirit that runs away from home and ends up in an abusive relationship with Jimmy who ends up dead but that’s kinda of where the the similarities end. The book takes place primarily in Long Island then in their Aunt’s house in Massachusetts. Maybe that’s what I didn’t like it as much because the Aunt’s were not in it as much as they are in the book. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing are kinda the best part of the movie and without them the book is kind of lacking. The urgency that is felt with the dealing the spirit of Jimmy isn’t there. There is no build up of the romance between Sally and Gary Hallet. He doesn’t even appear until the last 50 pages of the book. As for a book about witches there really isn’t much witchcraft going on. I was a little disappointed in it but at least I can always watch the movie.

Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

sunshine The first time I read Sunshine was 10 years ago right after the release of Breaking Dawn. Let’s just say that Breaking Dawn left a lot to be desired.  I can’t remember if it was Kate who suggested Sunshine or if it was our friend Elizabeth but it was one of those “read this if you want to read a good vampire novel after a really bad one”.  I did and it is.  I loved it as much now as I did back then.  It was just as suspenseful, mysterious, funny and kind of sexy even if there isn’t much of a romance going on.  Rae “Sunshine” Seddon is as normal as one can be living in New Arcadia after the Voodoo Wars.  She makes the best cinnamon rolls at Charlie’s Coffeeshop.  Her whole life revolves around the coffeeshop.  Things change when she decides to take a drive out to the lake and is kidnapped by Vampires and is sucked into an old school feud between two very old and very different vampires.  She also discovers that she isn’t so normal after all.  She happens to be the daughter of a powerful sorcerer and has powers of her own.  When she saves herself and Constantine with her sunshine power her life is turned upside down.  She deals with it pretty well with a lot of dark humor and a great supporting cast.  Constantine is everything that Edward is not.  He doesn’t try to pretend he’s anything that he isn’t.  He’s considerate and thoughtful.  Many times he could have taken advantage of Sunshine but doesn’t.  In the end he realizes that he needs her as much as she needs him.  As for their relationship status, who knows.  There is definitely a connection between them.  It’s more than just the bond from healing each other but also surviving multiple traumatic events.  They are definitely two friends who have a deep respect for each other and continue to challenge each other.  Let’s go back to Sunshine.  In someways it’s unfair to compare her to Bella because Sunshine is an adult and Bella is not.  Sunshine has more life experience that when she makes decisions she knows how much is going to effect her and the people she cares about.  She also sees that she is an impossible situation that doesn’t give her any good choices to choose from.  She is self aware to know herself but also what is going on around her.  While Constantine does take up a lot of time and thinking he doesn’t become the center of her life.  She keeps her family and friends close and many of them actually help her to understand what is going on and give her the tools to defeat the evil vampire.  Her support system is truly key. Not just to help her through killing vampires but also help her heal from her traumatic experience too.  I think that’s important part of the story.  Constantine is a powerful vampire but he couldn’t take on The Evil Vampire on his own.  He needed Sunshine.  Sunshine would not been able to deal with what happened to her without the support of her stepfather, Charlie, her boyfriend Mel, Her Mom, Her landlady, Yolande, her friend Aimil, her other friends and SOF agents, Pat, Jesse and Theo.  Whether or not they knew it, they all played a roll in defeating The Evil Vampire and keeping Constantine and Sunshine alive.  It was a group effort but also a reminder that no matter what is going on in your life.  You are never truly alone.  So yes, Sunshine is a great vampire novel and deserves more props.

Review: Embassytown by China Mieville

9780345524508_p0_v1_s550x406 The last book of my Pop Culture Assignment and I don’t even know where to begin.  There is a lot going on and I think it needed a glossary for all the new terms he made up for this world.  Our Protagonist Avice, is an immerser that knows how to control the immer but it was never really explained what that is but it has to do with space travel.  Her ability allowed her to leave Embassytown and return but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Avice is from a colony in the middle of nowhere.  There lives an mysteries species called the Hosts that have a peculiar way of communication called language.  Only few people know and few can speak it.  The few who can are Ambassadors are two people modified to think as one.  It’s complicated.  Avice has a rare place in language as she was once used as a simile.  The Hosts can not lie.  They can only speak the truth so for something to be said it must has a place in the world so they make people or things a simile to help explain things.  It’s very complicated.  Anyway, Avice leaves Embassytown only to return with a new husband who is a linguist and seems more interested in language than Avice but whatever.  As soon as they return things get crazy.  The end of the world crazy.  The nation that oversee them decides to bring in their own Ambassador and well, things don’t go as planned and all hell breaks loose.

It was an interesting read but it was very confusing.  I felt like so many things that were left unexplained like the immer that we are just expected to understand.  Language too is very complicated that it does take the whole book to understand but that also might have been the point.  It took a while to get into because the world building was immense and once I got past that I really enjoyed it.  I was still left confused on several things but still enjoyed it.

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

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This novel started off well. Amanda, a high schooler, is sure her mother has been kidnapped by a serial killer who has been stalking the streets of San Francisco for the past few months. Then, the story flashes back to before the first of the murders and you get to meet Amanda (who is a little bratty, but lovable), her grandfather (who is awesome), her mom, Indiana (who is flighty) and Amanda’s online friends who all play an online role-playing game called Ripper. Indiana is a healer at a clinic (she does massage, magnets, and aromatherapy) and some of her patients, her ex-husband and his secretary, her former in-laws, and her boyfriend figure into the tale as well.

 

This novel had a huge cast. Maybe its the Summer of Novels with Huge Casts?

 

I liked this well enough at the beginning. But, the more of it I got through, the more there was about it to dislike. I wasn’t really sure what was going on with the online role-playing game. Also, Indiana was a little grating. Finally, there is a twist at the end that was soapy, stereotypical and garbage-like and then another twist that was telegraphed and obvious. Meh. On the positive side, Edoardro Ballerini who read the audiobook did an excellent job of

 

I wanted to like this book, because I’ve liked other Isabel Allende books in the past, but it wasn’t for me. For everything that was good about it, there was at least one thing that was equally bad or worse about it. I was not a fan.